As the electorate in Ekiti State prepares to go to the polls on Saturday, 21st June, 2014, indications have emerged that the Federal Government may have put the state under heavy security siege, a step which concerned human rights activists, groups and citizens have described as unwarranted and comparable to a war situation.
While stern looking soldiers and mobile policemen have been seen patrolling the streets some of the major towns in the state such as the state capital, Ado Ekiti; Ilawe, Afao and Ifaki amongst others, detachments of soldiers have also mounted road blocks and conducting search on vehicles on major roads thereby causing panic amongst residents who may have never seen such heavy security presence before since the creation of the state.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that, no less than 2, 860 mobile police officers and men have been drafted into Ekiti State, this is in addition to the 310 Mopol drawn from within the state.
In all, the military has at least about 2,280 officers and men on ground, the SSS has 1,800 operatives while the Civil Defence has 15, 000 officers and men just as the regular police are said to be a total of 12, 340. In all, the electorate in Ekiti State may be filing out to the polls amidst not less 36,590 security personnel, a far cry from what the police and military leadership have publicly disclosed.
Human Rights lawyer and activist, Femi Falana (SAN) has condemned the siege on Ekiti State describing it as “totally unacceptable and the militarization of democracy deliberately designed by the Federal Government to intimidate and harass unarmed voters. After this election, the Federal Government should deploy equal number of armed troops to each of the north eastern state where the country is fighting the menace of insurgency. Deploying 36, 590 security personnel into a state with the population size of Ekiti State is needless, condemnable and despicable.”
Asked what this means for democracy, Shina Loremikan, National Coordinator, Campaign Against Impunity, a pan-African human rights network described the deployment of such outrageous number of security personnel as unhealthy for democracy saying, “this is an outrageous act of militarization of the civil populace capable of instilling fears into the minds of the people and disenfranchise them. One of the key elements of democracy is the provision of an atmosphere for the people to be able to go out and freely elect their representatives without fear. The atmosphere we have seen on ground in Ekiti State is that of police state rather and one comparable only to what is seen in a state that is at war.” Loremikan further advised the Federal Government to devote more security attention to Borno State where innocent Nigerians are being slaughtered daily saying, “if the number of security personnel the Federal Government has deployed to Ekiti State had been deployed to the Sambisa forest, I am sure our girls would have been brought back alive by now.”
A respected traditional ruler in the state who spoke to a team of journalists covering the elections on condition of anonymity condemned the heavy security presence noticeable in the state saying, “our state is just like a war zone now. What is the desperation to capture Ekiti State all about? I have been overwhelmed by calls from my concerned subjects about this situation. This is nothing but a siege. But my chiefs and I have offered prayers in this palace to our ancestors so that there will be no bloodshed. But whoever is doing this to Ekiti people should know that there is God and there is a day of reckoning.”